U of L iGem teams gear up for international competition with early successes

Despite the current COVID-19 crisis, funding insecurities and campus closures, Canadian iGEM teams came together October 3 & 4 to celebrate synthetic biology and science innovation.

The University of Lethbridge and Lethbridge High School iGEM teams were two of 10 teams from across Canada to participate in the inaugural event. This year, only five Canadian teams are moving on to participate in the International Genetically Engineered Machines Giant Jamboree virtual competition, including both Lethbridge teams. The high school entry will be the only Canadian high school participating.  

The conference started with a welcome address from Dr. Bettina Hamelin from Ontario Genomics, and included many workshops and fireside chats on how students can communicate their scientific work and create a start-up from their project. Many judges and speakers were from North American biotech companies, and were able to share their personal journey towards success with the students.

The U of L team presented its “FRIGEM” project which focuses on making local potatoes more resistant to fungus infections while increasing the nutritional value of potatoes and all their “fried” successor products. The judges at cGEM awarded the U of L project a silver medal.

“Presenting our project at cGEM and getting feedback from the judges was a great opportunity for our team to gain experience and will help us improve our project for the Giant Jamboree,” says Emily Hagens, a neuroscience student at the U of L.

The high school team's project, tPECTIN-ACE, aims to make at-home composting as efficient as possible by engineering an enhanced pectin-degradation enzymatic pathway. As the only high school team to participate in the conference and competing against solely university teams, the Lethbridge group was was thrilled with its bronze medal standing.

“It was a good experience getting feedback. Talking to other iGEM teams and judges was super valuable. It will really help us to prepare for the giant jamboree,” says Linda He, a grade 12 student from Chinook High School.

With the current global situation, it is clear the impact science and research can have on our society. The iGEM program is a great way of introducing young people to science, technology, engineering and math, while empowering students to engage with real-world local and global problems.

To support the Lethbridge high school iGEM team, please consider donating to our GoFundMe.

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Follow the teams on social media:

Instagram @lethbridgehsiGEM/@uleth.igem

Facebook @lethbridgehsiGEM/@LethbridgeiGEM

Twitter @LethHS_iGEM/@LethbridgeiGEM